Thursday, February 20, 2014
A New Beginning?
Waking up to that sunrise in Florida on Sunday made me realize that I had some stuff to think about. I was in a foul mood, confused, upset, and left wondering what the future holds. Although you can't officially DNF a lap endurance race, I still felt like a quitter. I mean, I'm usually that guy that keeps going no matter what, until the race is “officially” over. Cramps, pain, mechanical issues, etc. have never kept me down, because my mind always made sure I continued on. To me, that was fun. The feeling I had when a race was over was so awesome. I'd accomplished something, and I was much stronger for it.
I have no idea why I didn't want to have that same feeling after the 12 Hours of Santos. I'd accomplished one of my goals that weekend though, which was to get away from the cold weather to ride my bike on some really fun trails with good people. After that, I didn't care. I realize now that this feeling started way before last weekend.
Back a few years ago when I decided to do my first complete season of the Southern Classic Series, I took it seriously. I had fun pushing myself, but I also worked very hard both on and off the race course. I got on the podium a few times in individual races, and even ended up 2nd overall in my class when it was all over. The next year, I tried to do the same thing and I struggled. Less podium trips, and eventually I limped into 2nd overall again somehow. I remember wishing that the season would hurry up and be finished, and I vowed not to race in it again. I was burned out, and I “retired” from cross country racing.
I switched to endurance racing, thinking that it would keep things fresh. It did for a while, but this time the burnout came quicker. Although I didn't drop out of races early, the voices in my head worked overtime to try to get me to. I never trained, ate what I wanted, and drank all the beer I could get my hands on. I still did okay, and damn it I was having fun. More fun than those super serious people that train all the time I thought. “They can't be having fun” I told myself. “Who the hell wants to spend all their free time training for this shit and take it so seriously?”
Not me. I have better things to do.
Bike riding is supposed to be fun. I have a job, and they pay me to work. I don't need to turn my hobby into a job. Even if you win a race, what the hell does that get you? Bragging rights? Who gives a shit. I rode my bike, hung out with some cool people, and drank some beer while you monitored your cadence, heart rate, and lactate threshold. I won every time, even if you were on the podium.
Maybe they're on to something though. I used to have fun when I trained a little and did well in races. I wasn't that serious, but I could have been. Maybe I was afraid of turning out just like them. You know, not having any fun. Who the hell am I to say that those people aren't having fun? Is that why I make fun of dirt roadies? Maybe. After all, we do race mountain bikes. Sure, riding on the road does help, but to me it didn't make sense. I'm still confused, but I know for sure that I don't want to spend so much time on the road getting “in shape” that I forget how to ride technical stuff in the woods.
That's where my problem lies. If you like to train on the road to get stronger for mountain biking, then go for it. If the only time you actually ride your mountain bike is on a race course, then you sure as shit better not call yourself a mountain biker. I understand the need to train, and even see the benefit of road riding to help with endurance, etc. I just don't know if I can balance that with riding off road.
I'll admit it...
I'm afraid that I might become what I have despised over the years.
This is why I need to make a decision. I used to love racing my mountain bike. Why don't I anymore? Is it the influx of dirt roadies getting in my way on the tech stuff (and blowing by me on the easy shit?) Is it my own personal demons? Can racing ever be fun for me again?
I don't know the answers. I don't know shit, quite honestly. Well, I know that I pretty much have three options.
I can give up racing for good and just ride my bike for fun. I may miss it, and eventually jump back into it full steam just to get burned out again.
I can pick it back up and become more serious, going to spin classes (or whatever the hell y'all call it), hiring a coach, shaving my legs, and basically being a dick about riding my bike. Since I don't know when to say when, it would only be a matter of time before I came a super serious dirt roadie, getting heckled to death and cussed out by real mountain bikers.
The third option is kind of a gray area. Maybe I can “train” a little. You know spend some time on the road working on my fitness. The majority of the time I'll be on knobby tires, and I won't worry about how many beers I can drink based on how many miles I rode. I can race here and there, and heckle others when I don't feel like racing. I guess this would be like how it was in the past.
I know when I started the drive home from Florida, I was done racing. I thought for sure that after the race report I would be on here talking about how I'm quitting for good. Luckily it was a long drive, and I didn't have to make any decisions right away. I still don't, so I haven't. I've bought and paid for two races this season so far, and I'm pretty sure I'll do them. Now it's a question of whether or not they will be my farewell tour.
I don't have to decide today. I don't expect y'all to decide for me either. I'll figure it out though, hopefully sooner rather than later. It all boils down to me wanting to have fun on my bike, and how I'll go about it.
I think I'm even more confused now than when I started writing this.